By Benny Carrillo / September 26th, 2017
DISCLAIMER: This review contains coarse language in its images courtesy of the “gorgeous girl genius” Miu Iruma.
|Title||Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony|
|Developer||Spike ChunsoftCo., Ltd.|
|Publisher||NIS America, Inc.|
|Release Date||September 26, 2017 (US), September 29, 2016 (EU)|
|Genre||Mystery, Adventure, Visual Novel|
|Platform||PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita|
|Age Rating||ESRB: M – Mature (17+), PEGI 16|
Before 2017, I hadn’t played a single Danganronpa game. I knew a little bit about it, namely that various characters die, and just decided it wasn’t for me. However, after speaking with Kodaka-san during NIS America’s Press Event in February, I was intrigued. What followed was a binging of the franchise. I proceeded to play the Vita version of Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc, before picking up Danganronpa 1•2 Reload for the PlayStation 4. After devouring that, I moved onto the PS4 release of Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls and marathoned the dub of Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope’s Peak High School. In short, I fell in love with the franchise.
While Danganronpa does have its ups and downs, the fact that in 8 months I have dedicated so much time to it is impressive. A series I avoided had won me over and proved to me that these developers knew how to handle character death right. So, with that in mind, you can imagine just how excited I was for Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony. In fact, I did a playthrough of the demo for this site in hopes of showing people how unique and interesting Danganronpa could be. Well, I’ve finally gotten my hands on the game and finished picking it apart to see what makes it tick. Does it still capture my “Trigger Happy Heart” or is this a lie in disguise? Let’s take a look starting with a bit of background.
Danganronpa is a series of stories that revolve around a group of participants who are forced by Monokuma to play a killing game. The idea is simple. The participants are trapped in some location and are forced to live out the rest of their days there. If they want to escape, they need to commit the perfect murder and get away with it. The catch is, that shortly after a murder is committed a “Class Trial” will be held. If the participants can figure out who did it, the culprit is executed. However, if the participants guess wrong, they are then all executed and the culprit graduates and gets to leave. This format is used in the first two games and Danganronpa V3. As you can probably guess, that means there’s a lot of thought and logic put into the mysteries, and they are well done. However, before we delve into that, let’s talk about the graphics and sound first.
New Dynamic Danganronpa! ~ Graphics and Music
If I had to pick one word to summarize Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony it’d be dynamic. The development team did quite a lot to make the game as exciting to look at as possible. Lots of neon colors are used during the Class Trials and in the Psyche Taxi mini-game. The Class Trials also feature text that will animate and change to reflect what the person is saying. In addition, during the Visual Novel segments, the camera pans very quickly from character-to-character to give a feel that you’re looking back and forth. While on a whole the development team did a wonderful job, it can get a little too dynamic at times. The back and forth movement between characters can get a little dizzying because of how quick it is. Another graphical quip I have is regarding the UI.
The map UI is hard to read. There are two reasons for this. The area name boxes are way too small. You can tell they were designed for Kanji and not English. The other issue is with the character sprites that are used on the map. This is more of a PS4 issue, but if you’re sitting on the couch it’s hard to make out who is who. Especially in the early portions of the game where you’re still learning who each sprite is. These aren’t game breakers but this wasn’t a problem in previous titles. The soundtrack, on the other hand, is really good once again.
While I don’t think it’s as strong as Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair’s soundtrack is, the music in Danganronpa V3 is still enjoyable. The game includes familiar remixes of past themes along with some new pieces of music. One of the most enjoyable surprises for me were a pair of chiptune remixes of themes from Ultra Despair Girls. Talking about sound though means we need to talk about the voice acting and in this case, we’ll be talking about NIS America’s dub.
Bringing Characters to Life, in English ~ NIS America’s Dub
Different people, of course, have different preferences when it comes to the “Sub vs Dub” debate. I tend to prefer dubs despite knowing a little Japanese. The main reason for this is that it’s a lot easier to pick up emotional nuances in your own native language. Yes, Japanese VA work is extremely high quality, but it’s easier for me to emotionally connect with a character when I can hear them in English. Still, the dub needs to be on point and for the most part, it is.
I really enjoyed the effort the English voice cast put into this game and trust me, there’s a lot of work that went into this. However, there were a few things I did notice. The first being some of the canned responses. During the Visual Novel portions, rather than voice every single line, the characters will instead give a general voiced response. A good example would be Himiko’s “it’s magic…”, which is used in several places. This is standard for Danganronpa and has always worked well. The problem in Danganronpa V3 is that these responses feel a bit too generic in the early game.
These canned responses are supposed to accentuate the character and be somewhat unique to them. However, in the early bits of the game, I remember a lot of “Yeah’s” or similar responses. Maybe I just got used to it as the game went on, but later chapters seemed to utilize the clips better. The other issue is some of the voiced dialogue for Monokuma and Shuichi.
Some of Monokuma’s early lines just didn’t sound right. When you compare the voice to the first two games, it just sounds a little too high in certain places. Like someone trying to do Monokuma’s voice. However, once again, during later portions of the game, the quality of the lines was perfect. I can’t quite say the same for Shuichi.
The problem I have with his voice is that it doesn’t match the tone at times. Either there’s a lack of conviction in his voice when there needs to be, or he sounds happy when he shouldn’t. In both these cases, I hesitate to pin the blame of the actors themselves since I can tell they are trying and they do a wonderful job. Instead, I think issues are due to the actor being given improper direction. In the case of Shuichi, I’d also argue that maybe they’re trying to emulate the Japanese voice too closely. By no means does this make they dub horrible and I still recommend it. However, these are things I hope NIS America keeps in mind in the future. With sound wrapped up, let’s look at the game itself on the next page.
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